Tame Impala, ‘Lonerism’ – Album Review
At first blush, Tame Impala don’t offer that much to get fizzled about. Glancing over the barrels of online ink spilled about them, you’ll likely find five words connected to ‘Lonerism’: psychedelia, Lennon, Dave Fridmann, Australia, summer.
Got it. Snooze. Next. Whatever.
Unfortunately for your pessimistic side, ‘Lonerism’ rises above its lazy malapropisms and go-to buzzwords. From the opening vocal-loop rhythm to the final sound (synthetic waves seemingly sampled from ‘T&C Surf Designs,’ that cult NES game), the sophomore album from Tame Impala stands on its own two legs. Sure, it gets a bit of help from the proverbial shoulders of the giants that crash around in its 12 songs, but even so, it vaults into the top tier of albums released this year.
Don’t get it twisted: ‘Lonerism’ would still be a blast to listen to if the only thing going for it was the barrage of authentic stoner noises and, “Whoa, man, he really does sound just like John Lennon!” appeal. Which it has. In spades. No doubt.
But it wouldn’t stand up as stout without Kevin Parker’s touch for restoring antique melodies and bringing a certain kind of loosely rolled, chemically knackered songwriting back from the dead. Like Ariel Pink, Parker has an uncanny, double-jointed ability to create music that incorporates past influences without simply recreating or updating them from the vantage point of the future. (In this way, he’s unlike, say, Amy Winehouse — a genius beyond Pink or Parker who was nevertheless kind of an impressionist.)
At its best, ‘Lonerism’ displays a certain effortless melodicism that comets across the musical horizon every so often, usually in the form of a shortish, mop-headed, overseas eccentric. (Think Marc Bolan, Lee Mavers or Pete Doherty.) ‘Elephant,’ the album’s lead single and stealthy goal striker, is Song of the Year, just as sure as ‘Crazy in Love’ was in 2003 or ‘Paper Planes’ in 2007. An undeniable assemblage of hooks, it’s shoulders above its competitors. ‘Apocalypse Dreams,’ meanwhile, was seemingly plucked from the Wigan dancehall floors right before Northern Soul became cool, given an extra toot of some anonymous powder and secreted 45 years into the future.
In the pantheon of great 2012 albums, ‘Lonerism’ won’t be met with the open arms of a comeback album like ‘The Idler Wheel’ or the coddling that greets debuts like ‘Channel Orange.’ It’s not hard up for attention like Death Grips’ ‘The Money Store’ or pouting for muso awe like Swans’ ‘The Seer.’ It is, as its name implies, off in the corner, waiting for someone to say, “Hey, what’s up.” Then ‘Lonerism’ will offer you a stinky hash pipe and weird you out a little bit — but in the best way.